Suggested 2-week detailed itinerary for New Zealand

I will never forget this trip for several reasons; I sprained my ankle exactly 5 days before travelling and that was extremely disappointing for me, considering that a 2-week trip to New Zealand meant hiking, walking, climbing, bungee jumping and a lot of other adventurous activities. Nevertheless, I was going to visit one of the most beautiful countries this planet has to offer, with such diverse landscapes that nothing could have spoiled my spirit and excitement of going on this trip.

Our mantra while planning for trips to countries that have rugged, untouched landscapes has always been – rent a car! New Zealand is best explored on a road trip and what they say is very true – no matter where you are in NZ, you are never more than 5 minutes away from absolutely stunning beauty. The entire country is like walking into a painting, it is almost unreal.

Our 14-day trip covered both North Island and South Island, starting from the North and thankfully so because as you move from the North to the South, the awe-factor only increases until you hit Queenstown, one of the most picturesque towns we have ever seen. Here is a detailed suggested 14-day itinerary to this paradise nation:


Day 1: Auckland

We were lucky to arrive late night, on the weekend. Our hotel was bang in the city centre and it did not seem like wee hours of the night because of the liveliness. The city has great nightlife, especially on Queen Street. We spent only a day in this city, we couldn’t wait to hit the road and explore some countryside!

Recommended to visit:

  • Queen Street for the nightlife
  • Sky Tower for amazing 360-degree views of the city
  • Drive along the scenic route called Tamaki Drive, towards Bastion Point lookout. This place offers beautiful views of the Auckland skyline
  • Drive along the Harbour bridge, towards the North Shore (or cross over by foot)
  • Enjoy the sunset from the Mt Eden summit, a short hike to the top offers some great views of the city below and is a tranquil place to just sit back and enjoy the peace or walk around the green hilly terrain to soak in some fresh air

Suggested budget hotel, located in the city centre: City Lodge

Bastion Point Lookout
Bastion Point Lookout

Views from Mt Eden Summit
Views from Mt Eden Summit


Day 2: Drive from Auckland to Coromandel

Although an overcast day, this drive was absolutely stunning! As soon as you move out of the city, the scenery begins to brighten up and the crowds begin to thin. Welcome to paradise! It will only get prettier from here.

Our first leg was the drive from Auckland to Coromandel Town and then from there to Whitianga, the secluded little coastal town perfect for those looking to get away from crowded cities and relax in solitude. We found the best place to stay – a cosy little BnB right on the beach with hosts that were the friendliest and welcoming.

The drive from Auckland to Coromandel town is about 1.5 hours and the last 45 minutes from Thames to the town is probably the highlight. The magnificent coastline, green hills and secluded white sandy beaches make it very hard for you to keep your eyes on the road. The trip took us 3 hours, only because we couldn’t resist stopping every few minutes to take a picture!

On reaching Coromandel town, we sat down for lunch in the quaint little village. A laid back town with cute cafes and restaurants offering the best seafood soup I’ve ever had, we spent a couple of hours before we moved to Whitianga, another 45 minutes drive up ahead.

Secluded beaches along the drive to Coromandal
Secluded beaches along the drive to Coromandel

Drive from Thames to Coromandel Town
Drive from Thames to Coromandel Town


Day 3: Whitianga (Coromandel Peninsula)

Although an overcast day, this drive was absolutely stunning! As soon as you move out of the city, the scenery begins to brighten up and the crowds begin to thin. Welcome to paradise! It will only get prettier from here.

Recommended to visit:

  • Drive to Shakespeare Cliff for views so magical that they’re straight out of a painting, The cliff overlooks Cook’s Beach and Mercury Bay, with waters so blue that it’ll make your heart melt
  • A 2-km walk towards Cathedral Cove is absolutely recommended. The caves and the tall rocks amidst the sea provide the perfect backdrop for some delightful photography. The walk itself is an easy hike with splendid views throughout and there is no other way to get to Cathedral Cove than this enjoyable little walk. So park your cars, don your walking gear and sling the camera, this experience is absolutely worth it!
  • Hot water beach, where you can dig your own little pool and enjoy the naturally heated mineral water bubbles

Suggested accommodation: In Whitianga, I would highly recommend you to stay at Whitianga - On The Beach B&B. The location is brilliant, right next to the beach and very peaceful.

View from Shakespeare Cliff
View from Shakespeare Cliff

Cathedral Cove


Day 4: Coromandel - Matamata - Waitomo - Rotorua

A 2.5-hour drive from Whitianga, Matamata’s Hobbiton Movie Set is not something I would recommend you to skip. This was the highlight of our trip. Even if you’re not a movie fan, you will be awed by this little city that has been created specifically as a movie set. The little town is like a dreamland, and only licensed tours can operate through it, you cannot enter it on your own. As the tours sell out fast, you must book at least a day in advance to ensure you get the timing of your choice.

The 2-hour hour small group tour through this magical land can be booked here. The tour includes a visit to The Green Dragon Inn, a very cute little bar located inside the movie set and a free beer for everyone. In the movie, this bar is the meeting place for all residents of Hobbiton and you will be transported back into time as you enter this warm and cosy wooden hut, with its fireplace which has been created masterfully as an exact replica of the one in the movie.

From here, we headed towards the Waitomo Glow Worm caves, which is about an hour’s drive. A 45-minute walking cum boat tour through these caves is quite an experience. You will marvel in awe at the dark caves which will come to light with thousands of glow worms. Be quiet, or you’ll scare them away. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed.

Another 2-hour drive from Waitomo is Rotorua where we decided to spend the night.

Suggested budget hotel, right in the city centre: Ambassador Thermal Hotel.

Hobbiton Movie Set
Hobbiton Movie Set

The Green Dragon Inn
The Green Dragon Inn


Day 5: Rotorua- Taupo

Rotorua, the town with hot springs and geysers, welcomes you with a distinct odour - that of sulphur. You can visit the thermal geyser during the day, after enjoying a nice breakfast by the Rotorua Lake.

For tips and more information on the Geothermal park, click here.

From Rotorua, leave for Lake Taupo in the afternoon. The drive is about an hour long. Lake Taupo is one of the prettiest lakes on the North Island. You could enjoy a nice stroll along the lake, on the walking path or choose to do one of many adventurous activities such as skydiving over the lake or an ATV ride. You could also rent a kayak and enjoy some water activities on the lake or simply sit back and relax in one of the many cafes by the lake.

Geothermal Springs

Lake Taupo


Day 6: Taupo (via Forgotten World Highway) - New Plymouth - fly to Nelson

One of the very underrated things on the North Island is the drive on the Forgotten World Highway. This highway is also known as State Highway 43 and there are faster routes to get from Taupo to New Plymouth. However, we read about this highway on the internet and it sounded very interesting and an off-beat path to explore so we decided to take it.

The highway is literally 'forgotten' as we did not see many people on it. We hardly crossed 3-4 cars on our way! It is, however, gorgeous not only because of such isolation but also because of the beautiful green hills and valleys that you cross. The path is extremely narrow and you must drive carefully as the twists and turns could open to reveal another car on the other side. However, it helps that the road is so empty. If you do decide to take this route, be prepared to have uneven paths along the way and it might take you about 5 hours to cover this route. Once again, this is NOT the route of choice for those in a hurry and looking for the shortest way.

From Taupo, you will head towards Taumarunui, which is where the highway starts and runs till Stratford. The road is about 150 km but takes easily 3 hours to cover, if not more. The only option for food and beverages on the way is the cute little pub called Whangamomona Hotel Restaurant.

Once you reach Stratford, which is the end of the highway, head towards New Plymouth. This was our last day on the North Island and we took a flight from here to Nelson, after dropping our car off in New Plymouth.

Forgotten World Highway

Forgotten World Highway

Forgotten World Highway

Approaching Nelson, view from the flight


Day 7: Abel Tasman National Park

Welcome to South Island! The very north tip of the South Island is home to this stunning national park, which I absolutely recommend for nature lovers to visit. We picked up our car for the next few days from Nelson, which is where the flights land, and it is hardly a 45-minute drive from the amazing national park.

Here are a few tips to visit this national park:

  • The park extends for almost 45 kms, one end to the other. It is a protected park which means there are absolutely no hotels or restaurants inside the park itself. The only lodges available are at Awaroa and Torrent Bay.
  • There are two ways to explore this park: for the fit people who like hiking, you can choose to explore a part of this park on foot. The others can simply take a boat ride and get off at one of the stops to spend some time at the beach or take a short walk around.
  • I would recommend you to take an aqua taxi from Marahau to Awaroa and choose any one of the scenic spots on the way to disembark. We chose to take a trip all the way to Awaroa while going and got off at Torrent Bay / Anchorage (depending on the tide, the taxi stops at one of the two) from where we took a short hike around the area and chilled on the beach.
  • Do carry ample drinking water and snacks in your backpack. Although there are a few areas where you can fill up on the water, there was no water available when we went. Thankfully, there were toilets!
  • Spend 2-3 hours in Anchorage before taking the taxi back. Remember to check the taxi timings / pick up a map at the visitor centre.
  • Stay in a hotel at Kaiteriteri (town area nearest to the national park) as it convenient to board the boat from Marahua at any time of day if you're staying close by.
  • Abel Tasman is one of the sunniest towns in South Island. If you're visiting during the peak summer months, you will enjoy the amazing weather which is probably one of the warmest in the entire South Island.

View from the hiking trail

Lovely blue waters at Abel Tasman National Park

The seal colony, Tonga Island

Split Apple Rock

Beautiful sunny day at Abel Tasman National Park


Day 8: Drive along the West Coast towards Fox Glacier

West Coast Highlights

This was not part of our original plan. However, it was highly recommended by a lot of people so we changed our plan last minute and decided to take the drive. Although the drive from Abel Tasman all the way till Mt Cook last almost the whole day, considering that you will stop along the way for some amazing experiences, we prepared for a long road trip on this day. Here are some of the highlights of this drive:

  • Starting point (1) is Kaiteriteri. From here, you will drive towards Westport (2), approx 3-hour drive. The scenic part of the drive is yet to start. You can stop for a quick coffee and snack at Westport. There is a large town centre with many restaurants and cafes and you must absolutely explore two places here: Cape Foulwind Lighthouse and Fur Seal Colony, at Tauranga Bay. Park your car at the fur seal colony entrance, the walk till the viewing point is about 30 minutes return journey. Then drive towards the lighthouse and park the car. The walk till the lighthouse is about 30 minutes (return). The views from here are breathtaking. Alternatively, you can choose to walk the entire way from the Fur Seal car parking till the lighthouse and back (3km, 1 hour each way).
  • From here, the drive is mostly along the coast and extremely scenic. You will then drive towards Punakaiki (3), 50-minute drive. Here, you should visit the spectacular pancake rocks. From the carpark to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, it is a 1-km return walk, hardly takes 30 minutes.
  • From here, head towards Greymouth (4), a very historical town popular for gold mining. You can visit Shantytown Heritage Park, a town which has been recreated as it was in the 1900s. However, this heritage museum is open only until 5 pm, so if you are here before then, you may visit. We were too late and missed it!
  • From Greymouth, head towards Hokitika (5) which is only a 30 min drive. It is a cute little town on the beach with numerous cafes, restaurants and shops selling New Zealand Jade (greenstone). A cool place to stop for a coffee, quick snack or just a stroll along the beach.
  •  You're only 1.5 hours away from your final destination, Fox Glacier (6).  If time allows, catch the sunset over Lake Matheson, with the beautiful snow capped peak reflecting in the lake's calm waters.

Beautiful reflection in Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier

Waiho glacial river

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

The rugged wilderness of the West Coast

View from Cape Foulwind Lighthouse

Cape Foulwind Seal Colony


Day 9: Fox Glacier - Lake Tekapo

There are a number of activities that you can do at Fox Glacier. These include:

  • glacier walks
  • skydiving
  • helicopter tours

Read more here.

In the afternoon, head towards Lake Tekapo. Although it is a long drive (about 5 hours), it is totally worth visiting the three attractions that you will be on the next day - Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki & Mt Cook. Also, the drive itself is between the mountains and is absolutely breathtaking! On the way to Lake Tekapo, you will cross two of the prettiest lakes in New Zealand - Lake Wanaka & Lake Hawea. In my opinion, these two lakes and Lake Pukaki are the three best lakes you will ever see! With waters that range from turquoise to deep dark blue, it is one of the most picturesque drives ever.

Suggested accommodation at Lake Tekapo: I would suggest to camp along the lake. We stayed at Lake Tekapo Motel & Holiday Park, a camping site right next to the gorgeous Lake Tekapo. You can book a chalet (studio / 1 BR/ 2BR) with amazing views of the lake.

Gorgeous turquoise colours of Lake Pukaki

Drive towards Lake Tekapo

Green blue colours of Lake Hawea

Deep blue colours of Lake Wanaka


Day 10: Lake Pukaki - Mt Cook - Queenstown

On this day, drive towards Mt Cook (1 hour) and spend the day in this beautiful village amidst snow-capped peaks of some of the tallest mountains in New Zealand. We prepared for sudden weather changes, carry enough warm clothes with you and be protected against rain as well. On a bright sunny day, you must go for either an alpine walk in the rugged wilderness to enjoy the stunning scenery or take a boat tour to the glacier which is highly recommended as the lake that leads to the glacier is full of icebergs which you will have a chance to go really close to and even break the ice off from the icebergs and keep for yourself!

In the evening drive towards Queenstown (3 hours). If time allows, do stop at the very cute and picturesque village of Arrowtown, which is on the way, 45 minutes before arriving at Queenstown. Enjoy a quick cup of coffee at one of the many cafes and restaurants in this lovely little town.

Suggested budget hotel, close to city centre, right next to the lake: Lakeside Motel.

Mt Cook Alpine Walks

Mt Cook Glacier Boat Ride

Ice floating in the lake, Mt Cook Glacier Boat Ride

Mt Cook Glacial Lake - icebergs

Arrowtown

A church at Arrowtown

Gorgeous drive from Mt Cook to Queenstown


Day 11 & 12: Queenstown 

Welcome to one of the liveliest and most adventurous cities of New Zealand. Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather, it is not uncommon for it to be rainy and cold in Queenstown. You have 2 days to enjoy the city at your own pace - whether you choose to just walk around the beautiful little town, surrounding by snow-capped hills on all sides, take a cable car (skyline gondola) and enjoy the Luge Ride and superb views of the town below, test your love for adventure and get your adrenaline pumping with skydiving, bungee jumping or on the largest swing in the world, or enjoy activities for the lesser daring such as taking an ATV ride up the Queenstown hill, or simply taking a boat ride on Lake Wakatipu, there is so much to do here, you will be spoiled for choice.

Here are a few things I recommend you definitely try while in Queenstown:

  • A coffee at Vudu Cafe; it was probably the best coffee I had in NZ. The country does coffee better than anywhere else in the world and their coffees are amazing even if you buy them at the fuel stations.
  • A hamburger at Fergburger which will leave you licking your fingers.
  • Ice cream at Patagonia Chocolates; you won't be able to stop at just one!
  • Teapot cocktails at World Bar, some very interesting cocktail creations presented innovatively.

In terms of activities, Queenstown is well known for the extreme adventure lovers who want to bungee jump or skydive. However, for the lesser adventurous, try the ATV (quad bike) tour which can be done even if it is rainy and cold. The tour goes up the Queenstown Hill and offers stunning scenery all along the way. You may also enjoy the Luge Ride, on the Skyline Gondola.

One of the best experiences, apart from the bungee jumping, was the Highest Swing in the World (Nevis Swing). Watch our video here.

Watch Mohit's Nevis Bungee Jump (highest bungee in NZ) video here.

The bungee platform at Skyline Gondola

Nevis Bungee Platform

Getting ready for the Quad Bike Tour

View of Queenstown from Skyline Gondola

Quad Bike Tour, Queenstown

Lake Wakatipu on a rainy day

Getting ready for Nevis Swing


Day 13: Queenstown - Glenorchy - Queenstown

Glenorchy is a stunning postcard town, about 1 hour away from Queenstown. Driving along Lake Wakatipu, you will arrive at this laidback town with some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Picture this - lush greenery, calm blue waters of the lake with the snow-capped peaks in the backdrop, a walking path over a beautiful wetland, in one of the quietest neighbourhoods. This is the perfect place to enjoy solitude, connect with nature and get some fresh air, far away from the city.

I recommend taking a walk (1-2 hours) on the Glenorchy Walkway, situated right next to the lake area. You will see ample signs leading to it, else you may ask the locals who would be more than happy to guide you. It is an easy walk.

Glenorchy, along Lake Wakatipu

Taking in the stunning scenery at Glenorchy

Glenorchy

Glenorchy Walkway over wetlands


Day 14: Milford Sound

You may want to spend your day relaxing at Queenstown and enjoying the city or take a day trip to Milford Sound, with its fjords, rainforests and waterfalls. The drive from Queenstown is almost 4 hours (one way), you must be prepared for a really long day!

We decided to skip it, as we were too tired by the end of the trip to spend another 8 hours on the road. However, if you're up for it, the place is gorgeous and unlike any other place in NZ.

Suggestion: If you have more time on the South Island, I would suggest to

  • break your trip of the West Coast down into 2-3 days, so as to allow you to spend more time in the cities on the way
  • spend more time in Queenstown as it is one of the liveliest cities in New Zealand
  • visit Christchurch

31 thoughts on “Suggested 2-week detailed itinerary for New Zealand”

  1. Did you guys rent a car? If so, how much is it per day? I will be in Auckland for four days and seeing your itinerary and only spending a day there, I was thinking of getting out of Auckland for the remaining three days. However, I already booked four nights of hostel accommodation in Auckland…

    1. Yes Justine, we rented a car, it made things a lot easier. However, I’m sure you’ll find buses or train running to most of these places from Auckland. It’s okay if you’re staying in Auckland, you can think of doing day-trips to Waitomo Caves, Rotorua and Hobbiton Movie Set. You may also consider taking a ferry to Waiheke Island and spend a day there. These places are certainly prettier than Auckland, although I do also like the vibe and nightlife in Auckland itself.

  2. Do you feel like New Zealand is somewhere you should travel for natural attractions alone? Or are there cultural elements as well? It is undoubtedly gorgeous, but coming from Australia myself, the concern for me is that the culture would be so similar that it would be boring in some ways? Or maybe that’s not the case.

    1. Yes, of course, the unique Maori culture is something you should definitely experience while you’re there. I’m not the best judge of how different it is culturally from Australia because I haven’t been to Australia unfortunately. However, you can be sure, a trip to New Zealand will be anything but boring 🙂

  3. We actually lived in New Zealand for 9 months and when we started travelling we did a similiar itinerary! Good suggestions here, it contains New Zealands best places! How beautiful is Milford Sound?!

    1. Wow, you’re so lucky you got to live there for so long Natalia. I would love to spend more time, 2 weeks did not do justice to that lovely country. I can spend 2 months in South Island itself!

  4. In 14 days you guys managed to do so much! I’ve always wondered if two weeks would be enough (since vacation days are limited) but I’m feeling inspired. The colorful hot springs are unreal! Did you feel that New Zealand was an expensive destination?

    1. To be honest, 2 weeks was really less. We were running around a lot and I felt that it should’ve been done in a more relaxed manner 🙂 But that’s the problem of being a working couple – you cannot spare as much time as you would like to. Balancing your career goals and your wanderlust is so tough! Yes, we did feel it was quite expensive, especially getting there! The flights cost us a bomb. The food was slightly expensive as well, as was renting the car. But if you book in advance, you will at least find some great hotel deals.All in all, its such a beautiful country, it all seems worth it in the end 🙂

  5. This itinerary is great! I definitely want to take a road trip in New Zealand, so this is definitely helping me figure out where to go! I just drove 2200 miles through Alaska in one week, so i’m sure that this route is completely doable in two weeks 🙂

  6. wow, this is a really fantastic itinerary! You really spent your 2 weeks well to bring such a cool and informative blog post. The diversity of NZ natural landscapes are definitely something to awe at and would leave not traveller or local bored!

  7. You managed to do a lot in 2 weeks… especially with a broken ankle. The forgotten highway looks incredibly scenic. I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand. I love the rugged outdoors.

    1. I injured my ankle after I had already made all plans and bookings, didn’t want to miss out on anything 🙂 But yea, I think we did manage to cover a lot!

  8. Wow you did all this in just two weeks? I was in New Zealand for a year, granted a lot of it was spent in Queenstown but it did take me 4 months travel both Islands. I love New Zealand so much I even went back for a holiday on my birthday haha. Where in New Zealand did you enjoy best?

    1. I loved Queenstown, it is so amazing, even though it was raining pretty much the entire time we were there. I also loved the drive on the West Coast of South Island, we did it in one day but I felt some towns on the way deserved a lot more time than we could spend.

    1. Absolutely! Next time, I’d love to take a tent along and camp there. They don’t seem to have a lot of facilities but I did see people doing it anyway.

  9. This really is a detailed itinerary, I don’t know where to start with my favourites! NZ is so far from me, that I may just have to look and read posts like yours! All the lakes, islands, rock formations and scenery are stunning, and full of natural beauty. If I ever go, I will remember your post for the future!

  10. I have no idea how you guys were able to leave! It looks so beautifully gorgeous. I like all the small towns you mentioned like Whitianga because all I’ve ever heard about NZ is Auckland and pic for making Lord of the Rings. I’ve always wanted to visit NZ and this just makes me want to go even more

  11. New Zealand looks like such a spectacular country – definitely on my bucket list! Thanks for this detailed itinerary, will have to keep this handy for when I go!

  12. This is really comprehensive! I’m pretty envious that I haven’t been to New Zealand yet, especially as it’s only a 5 hour flight away…oops
    It sucks that you sprained your ankle before going, but you still managed to see so much natural beauty of this country. I can’t wait to take a car or van there and just get lost in the wilderness.
    Did you prefer the south or north island?

    1. Undoubtedly the South Island. I was going ‘wow’ all the way, there’s isn’t a place that’ll not make you be in total awe.

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